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Building your writer community

Jeda Pearl, Writer and Co-Director of the Scottish BPOC Writers Network, shares her insights into building a strong community of writers.

Last updated: 02 February 2024

Writing is often viewed as a solitary practice and, in the actual placing of words in formation, it is usually just you and the page.

Yet (while some of us who live with multiple people may crave more alone time), we humans seem to thrive when we find community.

I believe we need safe spaces with people who we share lived experiences with as well as spaces where we come together with people from many different walks of life.

Finding and building a writer community

As artists, we need peers and mentors to support us, and peers and mentees to in turn support. Gathering with other writers can give us space to commiserate, celebrate, stretch ourselves and simply exist with like-minded folk.

In fact, having a community of writers you meet with in person or online regularly can help you gain confidence in your work, make writer-friends, and over time, have a significantly positive impact on your artistic practice and career as a writer.

In the early days (years!), it can feel terrifying to put yourself out there, but I urge you to seek out other writers. The rewards are plenty.

Writers’ groups

Search engines are your friend – there are countless writer meetups, writing groups, salons and organisers, online and in person. Some folks gather to write side-by-side on their individual works-in-progress. Others gather to read one another’s work and feedback during the meetup.

If you don’t have the means to participate in a formalised workshop led by an experienced facilitator, your local or national library might run (or know of) free writing groups. Or you can have a look at the workshops and retreats listed here.

You might want to find a group that meets locally in person, or a genre-specific group that meets online.

Instead of typing ‘writing group near me’ you can specify your individual circumstance, area, genre, or space you are seeking, for example:

You might need to try out a couple of groups before you find your people – that is okay!

Social media and digital forums

If you are not turning up much in general web searches, try searching a different forum, such as:

Social media can eat up heaps of your time! I recommend focusing on one or two profiles initially.

Attending literary events to meet other writers

Going to a literary event solo for the first time can be nerve-wracking but there is a good chance you will not be the only person who has arrived solo. If it helps, remember there is probably more social anxiety in the room than appears.

Open mics can be a welcoming place to start as they are more informal and eclectic. They usually have multiple speakers, and therefore conversation topics. You can learn different performance techniques and even put your name down – a great space to share your words and practice reading your work.

Book launches, panels and festivals are more formal and may involve less networking but opportunities to mingle may still present themselves.

Other types of events to meet more writers are writer conferences, Book Week Scotland events, university literature department talks, multi-arts events, or genre-related events.

Whatever the literary event you attend, everyone is there because they love and enjoy literature.

Finally, if an event is hosted by an institution or a large organisation then they should be putting access requirements in place, such as BSL interpretation, captioning, quiet room, hybrid digital access. You can be an ally to disabled, Deaf, blind, neurodivergent, and chronically ill writers by requesting these access requirements are in place.

Start a writing group

If you cannot find a writer’s group to join, you could always start your own!

You might want to grow your writer community via online networks first, or speak to your local literary organisation, council or community library who may be able to help support aspects of hosting the event. Or a local venue might be happy for you to reserve a table on a quiet night.

For in-person events, try to secure a wheelchair-accessible venue.

For online events, try to partner with an organisation or institution that could help make your group more accessible. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Google Meet now come with automatic captions (though they are not perfect).

If offering each other feedback will be part of your writer group, I encourage you to keep the feedback gentle and encouraging.

Building community as part of a writing career and practice

Empathy is often at the heart of our work as writers, plus reading has been proven to develop empathy. There are times when we need to be in spaces with people who share our lived experiences and, equally, there are times when we need to bridge, understand and celebrate our differences together. Finding and building community and working on our allyship(this link will open in a new window) creates a more empathic and, I suggest, resilient society.

If you're interested in setting up a group for yourself, why not check out our tips for starting a writing group? We also have information about in-person writing groups in Scotland as well as listings for online writing workshops or groups.